Belfast Telegraph

Vow to improve counselling service for Troubles injured

Michael McHugh

Phone calls from those affected by the Troubles are to be returned within a day, a minister said.

A service to pay for counselling and other needs is to be independently reviewed after serious criticism from some sufferers.

One injured victim had to get three quotes for her own wheelchair and many bereaved by the conflict decided not to apply for financial help after those who did were left stressed, a victims group has claimed.

Alex Bunting, who was badly injured by an IRA booby-trap car bomb in Belfast in 1991, has been appointed to the board of the Victims and Survivors' Service (VSS) ministers told their scrutiny committee at Stormont, as part of a wider overhaul.

Junior minister Jonathan Bell said: "We have now got a target to return every call within 24 hours of a working period."

He added officials had introduced new procedures for obtaining quotes for equipment and work to deal with new cases has been deferred pending the outcome of the review but admitted high-level change was required.

The DUP MLA said: "Amending assessments likely is required and, taking that as a starting point, there is a high likelihood that will be changed."

Calls were not returned, claims to cover the cost of befriending or counselling were delayed and onerous paperwork requirements left some feeling it was not worth using the VSS, a report from the Wave Trauma Centre has said.

The service was established by the OFMDFM in April last year to channel £20m of Executive funding to those who need it most. It provides money for therapies and counselling for those hurt in the Troubles.

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